Winner, Interactive 2012

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

The New York Times

A spectacular realization of the potential of digital-age storytelling, Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek illustrates and enriches superb, traditional feature writing by John Branch. Using still-photo slide shows, animated simulations and stunning aerial video, it documents and analyzes the causes and deadly impact of a monster avalanche in Washington’s Cascade Mountains that was triggered by one or more of 16 professional free-skiers and ski-journalists invited to a “back country” run by a resort’s marketing manager. Five were swept away by the rampaging tidal wave of snow. Three of them died. Branch’s prose, enough for a long magazine article or a short book, is poetic and richly detailed, evidence of his painstaking legwork. But what the website’s visitors come away raving about most are the visual components. We fly high above the Cascades to locate Tunnel Creek. From higher still, we see how the weather took shape that fateful day. We take a white-knuckle run down a similarly challenging slope by way of a camera on a skier’s head. We meet the ill-fated ski-partiers and hear from the survivors. At once beautiful and scarifying, Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek is a lucid, enveloping multi-media experience, and for this it receives a Peabody Award.


Development: Josh Williams, Jon Huang, Alan McLean, Jacky Myint. Art Directors: Steve Duenes, Andrew Kueneman. Reporter: John Branch. Editors: Jason Stallman, Joe Sexton, Becky Lebowitz, Jacky Myint, Steve Duenes, Andrew Kueneman, Hannah Fairfield. Video: Catherine Spangler. Photography: Ruth Fremson. Graphics: Hannah Fairfield, Graham Roberts, Xaquín G.V., Jeremy White, Joe Ward.